SRINAGAR (J&K): After travelling eight kilometers from a hamlet to access mobile internet on his phone, Rehan Manzoor finally reaches ‘Manzimnad’ – a place between Pulwama’s Tujan and Rahmoo villages and a link to Budgam district. Among shady orchards, people including PUBG lovers, students, businessmen and teachers can be seen staring keenly at their smartphones.

This is Rehan’s third visit to the place in a single month as internet is frequently barred in the southern Pulwama district. As soon as a gunfight breaks out, mobile operators receive communications to snap the services and people flock to Manzimnad, known as Internet Strip among the local youth.

“This is one of the many hardships that we have been facing after the erstwhile State was stripped of its special status. We often sleep using social media but awake to internet shutdown, owing to the outbreak of gunfights,” Rehan says.

He reveals, “I have to submit my assignments on Google Classroom. If I fail to submit them on time, then there’s no way left to submit them at all.”

People using mobile internet amid gag in a Pulwama village bordering Budgam district.
People travel more than 10km for using mobile internet amid gags in a Pulwama village bordering Budgam district.

It’s not just students like Rehan, but the place is frequented by youth who are addicted to mobile game PUBG. Away from their homes, these boys often stay hungary for the whole day in their quest for unravelling more and more ‘levels’.

Businessmen and teachers also visit the place and gel with the young lot of internet users, occupying the place.

Shahzaib, a young teacher, says, “We need to use Google Classroom for assigning new assignments to students every three days. Besides, all updates are now provided online only. All in all, we can’t do without internet connectivity.”

“All my business transactions are now online after the outbreak of COVID-19, the authorities keep asking us to follow social distancing on the one hand but snap internet services on the other. This is the agonizing irony!” laments Manzoor Khan, a local trader.

With the local police giving indications that their chase of militants will continue, the stability of internet signal in the southern district is likely to be jammed more frequently. However, the places like this ‘Internet Strip’ bring joy and relief for people amid the recurrent internet shutdowns.

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